James Hayden was born, raised, and currently lives in the New Orleans area. He is a New Orleans Saints fan, Survivor super fan, HLA technologist, writer, and a person who stutters. James is the author of Dear World, I Stutter: A Series of Open Letters from a Person Who Stutters. His work has been published by The Mighty, The Stuttering Foundation, Yahoo, and MSN. James has also appeared on several podcasts and was a speaker at TEDx Ochsner 2019. He also serves as the chapter leader for the New Orleans chapter for the National Stuttering Association.
…And I Still Have Time to Be
Every journey is a story waiting to be told. When I think of my journey, I think of the final three lines of one of my favorite poems, Anis Mojangi’s “Here Am I.”
And I still have time to be.
Looking back and looking ahead on my journey, each of these lines represent different mile posts. They also inspire me.
I didn’t reach this milepost until a couple of years ago. I know I am not one of one, but rather one of seventy million who stutter. I know I am not alone in this journey, but rather a part of an incredible community of people that “get it.” I know that I am not defined by my stutter, but rather it is one the many unique things that make up who I am. I know that I am not limited in what I can do because I stutter. I know that I am not my audience’s court jester because I stutter. I know that I am not represented by Porky Pig. In my late twenties, I am now confident in my voice and in myself. With hindsight, I know that going back to speech therapy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I am comfortable and willing to talk about this part of myself. Although difficult at times, I am choosing to accept and embrace this part of myself. I like to think that I am a better person because of this choice.
The person I am today is inspired by the person I was.
Growing up, I thought I just was. I thought I was the only person out of seven billion who talked differently. I thought I was alone in this journey. I thought I was the only one who “got it”. I thought my speech was something that needed to be fixed. I thought it was someone to be embarrassed by. I thought I was going to have limited opportunities because of it. I was singled out every time I left school to go to speech therapy. Because of Porky Pig, I thought I was the court jester in every situation. In my late teens and early twenties, I was not confident in my voice nor myself. I was ashamed of being a 20-something in speech therapy. I was not comfortable or willing to talk about this part of myself. I was not accepting nor embracing of this part of myself. I allowed stuttering to hold me back from the person I wanted to be.
The person I want to be is inspired by I am and the person I was.
And I Still Have Time to Be
The person I want to be is inspired by who I am and who I was. I want to be more confident in the areas of stuttering that I still struggle with. I want to be a bigger advocate for the stuttering community. I want to continue to be confident in my voice and in myself. I want to continue to accept and embrace this part of myself. I want to help other find their voice and their self-confidence. I want to be a positive role model for the next generation of PWS. I want them to know that Porky Pig is the anthesis of who they are and how they should view themselves. I want to be someone who shows them that stuttering is not who they are rather it is one of the many things that makes them uniquely them. I want to continue openly talking about my stutter. I want to continue further embracing and accepting this part of myself.
I want to be the person I need right now, even if I don’t know who that is.
The story of my journey is best summarized by Shane Powers, “One plus one plus one plus one equals this.” This being where I am today, at the age of 27, on my journey with stuttering.
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